So, I’d mastered the show. I had spares of everything. In fact, I would purchase enough Kirby grips (can’t bring myself to call them Bobby pins, although who Kirby and Bobby are, I’ve no idea!), bobbles and hairspray to coiffeur every single dancer appearing in the show. I would now remember to provide Abigail with food and drink which wouldn’t stain her costume and pack various forms of entertainment to ensure Abigail was fully occupied. I’d even gone one step further and signed up to be a dresser. However, once through that dressing room, I would firmly announce that I didn’t do hair, I didn’t do make up and I didn’t do emergency costume alterations. I was a teacher, so was fully qualified for toilet runs and counting heads. My skill set was obvious! So, like I said, I’d got to grips with this dancing lark.
However, as Abigail was on the verge of turning five, barely two years after we’d started our dancing journey, I was backstage with her at her third show and I saw her looking. Looking at the dancers who appeared to have more than one costume. Looking at the dancers who were racing to get to the Quick Change room. Looking at the dancers who didn’t need colouring books or a Nintendo DS, for they were too busy dancing. I instantly knew what was to come. She wanted to dance more.
I envisioned ‘more’ as a Saturday afternoon ballet class. All she would need was a cute, pink, frilly tutu and Bob’s your uncle (he must be your uncle because I have 8 uncles and none of them are called Bob!). I might even have an actual clue what was going on seeing as all the ballet terms were in French. I certainly knew my ‘chat’ from my ‘cheval’!
So, I enquired about ‘more’ and was answered with the word ‘troupe’. The only thing I knew about troupe/troop was when it was followed by ‘-ing the colour’ and it ruined my Saturday morning TV viewing as a child. I imagined the Queen and horses weren’t involved but I nodded enthusiastically and agreed to go. Abigail didn’t know what troupe was either except she was certain it would involve a new costume!
The following week, we arrived at the new dance class at a new venue, Abigail resplendent in a new magenta leotard, regal enough in case it did involve the Queen and expensive enough to show that we were both fully committed. Everyone was dressed in black. If ever Abigail wanted to be the centre of attention, she was that day. Rookie error 526. So, I hastily abandoned Abigail to be stared at by every girl present and dashed to the nearest dance shop.
Our fashion faux pas didn’t put Abigail off. She returned home, talking enthusiastically about Blackpool. Blackpool? For me, Blackpool had evolved over the years. As a child, it was a day trip with my parents where my mother would practically foam at the mouth because their M&S was bigger that Workington’s. For me, the said M&S sold a pair of the most gorgeous pair of maroon cords ever with a navy-blue corduroy belt. I unwittingly transported myself back to the Seventies by wearing them, even though it was 1984! Blackpool subsequently because the weekend destination of my birthday. Saturdays would be spent sticking to the carpet in the Tower Lounge and Sundays would be spent lying in the back of the car on the journey home, wishing that the floor had been so sticky that I’d be glued to the spot, therefore unable to buy more dodgy beer from the bar!
And now it was to become a dance destination. The title of the competition was never mentioned. The venue was never mentioned. It was just Blackpool and I had to make myself ‘dance mam’ ready all over again. Into the unknown once more.
Many practices later, the weekend of Blackpool arrived. Six times I stopped the car before we’d even left our estate. Costume. Check. Shoes. Check. Spare shoes, Spare socks. Baby wipes. Bobbles. Hairspray. Kirby/Bobby grips/pins. Bendy roller thingies. By the time we’d passed the Pelican, Abigail started to ask, ‘are we there yet?’ which was perfectly justifiable as she had been sat in the back seat for over half an hour, to be prolonged even further when I stopped on the bypass to check for the tickets!
24 hours later, ‘Blackpool’ day arrived. I don’t think I could even tell you the official name of this day, but I could certainly advise future parents when booking accommodation.
1) If in a B&B, move all furniture with sharp edges away from the bed in case child rolls over and falls out, banging head on the way (Abigail slept through it).
2) If in a B&B, check the small print before booking. You wouldn’t want the tuneless screeching of a karaoke party downstairs escaping up through the holes in your bedroom floor until 4am (Abigail slept through it).
3) If in a B&B, take earplugs in case pigeons decide to have an orgy outside your bedroom window at 3am (Abigail slept through it).
Abigail bounced to the Winter Gardens. Through caffeine enlarged eyes, I trudged like a Sherpa, navigating my way through vomit strewn streets, overladen with dancing supplies. Abandoning Abigail once more to unfamiliar faces in a strange setting (I am a fit mother, honestly!), I took my seat and waited.
And then she came on with her troupe. She told me she was on the right. She was on the left. She was meant to smile. She looked miserable. She was meant to be dancing non-stop. She stood stationary for what felt like an eternity. Maybe she’d suddenly had a delayed flashback to the promiscuous pigeons or the woeful warbling of the night before. And then cheers engulfed the theatre. It was over. That was Blackpool. Or so I thought. You then have to wait for the judging, then sit and listen to comments about the judging. Then everyone cheers again. Had we finished now? No, we had to listen for our number. It was eleven that day for Abigail. How come I can remember that from 2013 when I can’t even recall why I’ve walked into a room most days, I don’t know!! Eleven came second that day. I should have been elated but I immediately had a sinking feeling that Abigail had cost her troupe first place with her frozen statue solo routine. I’ve never told her this but whenever she’s been living up to her initials (ARS), I’ve been so tempted to reach for the DVD, play it in slow motion and point repeatedly to the lack of movement she exhibited. But I never will. I’ll just tell her she is fantastic as always and pretend to know that I have the faintest idea what this dancing lark is all about!!